Principles of practice-based learning

The CSP and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists have developed a series of principles of practice-based learning. CSP professional adviser Tamsin Baird explains

Cover of the report on practice-based learning principles

These principles of practice-based learning have been designed to help shape and support the provision of placements to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of our future workforce. We want to make it easier for everyone involved to come together and create placements that work for all. 

The principles are to be used by everyone involved in practice-based learning. By having a common language and shared vision, we believe they will offer an opportunity to connect, understand different perspectives and identify areas for joined up working. 

The document has been created to be flexible and interactive. All principles include the evidence-based rationale behind their importance and go on to provide space for individual and group reflections to help you to consider how they may be embedded into your practice. This is available as an online form too. The information that you capture could be used in many ways - as a discussion within your team, a CPD workshop or to drive conversations with others involved across practice and universities for example. Our practice-based learning web pages will act as a hub to support you with links to relevant resources. We want the principles to provide a framework to support all those involved in the consideration of new practice-based learning opportunities and the enhancement of established offers. As a teaser, we are including one of the principles below:

Principle 1 Practice-based learning opportunities are co-produced

Lots of different people are involved in practice-based learning. We have learners, practice education teams, host organisations and university representatives as well as the communities and populations we engage with. There are often competing priorities that exist between these people, making the creation of placements that work for everyone involved feel particularly challenging. But rather than focus on the differences, let’s instead consider how and where they align. Whether your priority is to recruit a newly registered practitioner into your team or to ensure learners graduate on time as work-ready professionals, we all seek to develop our future workforce.

To address this common goal, we must work together 

The development of the future workforce can be represented as a three-legged stool. Each leg may be separate, but they are also all essential. If one of the legs is missing or knocked away, the common goal simply cannot be achieved. 

One leg of the stool is ‘practice’, representing the placement setting, the business or organisation and all of those involved in the practice education team. The second leg is the ‘learner’. This is the individual going on placement whose approach and attitude to learning is key to its outcome. The third leg is the ‘university’, the education provider to which the learner belongs. 

Each of these legs plays a crucial role. Without practice providing placements, how can learners complete their studies? Without universities supporting the development of practice educators, how can more quality placements be created to accommodate our growing professions? Or without learners being open to engaging in placements across the different sectors and settings that we work within, how can a workforce for the future be developed? They can’t, all are required. Co-production between universities, learners and practice is key for mutually beneficial outcomes. 

As well as being the first principle of practice-based learning, working together across all legs of the stool is the golden thread running throughout all others. 

No principle can be successfully achieved by working alone, no matter how hard we try. 

As you read through this document, hold onto this ‘whole team’ approach. Take time to challenge your own thinking and current practice. Consider the principles through the lens of those in each leg of the stool, acknowledging different perspectives and identifying opportunities that we can bring each other. Think about how you come together, making sure that everyone is around the table, to be able to see the big picture; to create more quality and sustainable practice-based learning experiences to support the development of our future workforce.


We will be embedding these principles into many aspects of our future work and are keen to engage you all in this. 

What the stakeholders said

We held a stakeholder webinar in September with representatives from all three legs of the stool. Here is what they said;
Jillian Kent, principal lecturer and physiotherapist, Teesside University: ‘These will be really helpful and powerful in supporting learners, universities and placement providers. There is often a disconnect between understanding placements and understanding workforce when in fact they are absolutely two sides of the same coin’.

Aisha Benfield, OT student, Coventry University: ‘The principles of practice-based learning encompass so many important concepts paramount to successful learning experiences – the emphasis on co-production and alignment of motives and values between placement setting/learners and practice educators is essential for a stronger workforce and enhancing future learning opportunities.’

The principles of practice-based learning

  1. practice-based learning opportunities are co-produced.
  2. practice-based learning takes place across all areas, pillars and levels of practice.
  3. practice-based learning environments must be inclusive and welcoming to all.
  4. practice-based learning uses flexible, appropriate and supportive models of supervision and delivery.
  5. practice-based learning is designed with a whole team approach.
  6. the practice-education team are valued, respected and recognised within their roles.
  7. practice-based learning is evaluated; capturing data to drive improvement and demonstrate impact.

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